Wednesday, June 18, 2014

7 Plotting Can Be For You by Susanne Winnacker

Susanne Winnacker is the author of The Other Life series as well as the Variants series, the second book of which, DEFECTOR, comes out June 26th! The first book in the series, IMPOSTER has been optioned for a TV series by Warner Brothers.

Plotting Can Be For You by Susanne Winnacker

Today I’d like to talk about what I learned about my writing process and writing tips in general. As most aspiring authors do, I read tons of blog posts about writing habits and writing tips when I first started writing; I searched author blogs for their writing process. I wanted to find the one true way to write a book. As if there was one right way…

I’m an organized person. I don’t like surprises. I like plans, so it seems only natural that I would be a plotter. When I first started playing around with a book idea, however, I thought I had to be a pantser. I’d read on so many blogs and in countless author interviews that outlining, plotting, planning took the joy out of writing. Many writers said that. At the time it almost felt as if every writer felt that way. So despite the fact that I hated going into things without a plan, I tried to write my book without an outline. It would be fun, right?

It was the way to do it. Other writers said so (not to me personally obviously, but I’d gathered that from their comments).

But for me it wasn’t fun. I stumbled over words. I hated working on the book because I didn’t know what happened next. I wrote at a snail’s pace and eventually I grew frustrated. I decided to follow my instincts and plan the book. Back then I didn’t do extensive outlines as I do them today, but I wrote a short 2 page synopsis and a query letter for the book, and suddenly the words started flowing. And it was fun, even though I knew how it would end. For me, plotting was the right way, even if it isn’t for many other writers out there. You have to find your own way. Once I found an agent and publisher, I quickly discovered that it was an advantage to like outlining because in the publishing industry detailed outlines are often a necessary evil if you want to sell books.

But even after discovering this and after having published my first book, I hadn’t yet learned everything there was about the perfect way for me to write a book.

I still wondered if I was doing it right. Should I create extensive Pinterest boards for inspiration before I began a book? I love to browse through Pinterest boards of other writers, love to see how they visualize their characters, their landscapes and more, and I tried it, but it didn’t help with research or with writing. It took away time from the actual writing and felt like a necessary chore more than anything else, so I dropped it. I don’t need images of actors that resemble my characters or photos of scenery. It can be fun to find them but it’s not necessary for my writing process.

So ask yourself, do images help you develop the plot, do they make your creative juices flow? If that’s the case, then maybe a Pinterest board for your book is the right way for you, but if it feels forced and like one more way to procrastinate, then maybe it’s not worth it.

It also took me a long time to figure out the right way to outline. As I mentioned above, I used to write short 2 page synopses. They were okay to give my agent a taste of what I had planned, but they didn’t really help me all that much. Of course, the synopsis told me the major plot points, but I still struggled with my writing whenever I hit points where I needed to fill in the many scenes that happened between one major plot point and the next, and that bugged me.

So I tried to write a more detailed outline, but as I wrote the outline I kept adding new scenes and rearranged others until I lost track in the word document. I know some writers solve this problem with Scrivener, but I tried it once and couldn’t figure it out. I’m not a person with a lot of patience so I gave up. And then I asked myself: why not do it the old-fashioned way? There’s nothing better than the feeling of real paper in your hands. I rummaged through our drawers for note cards and then I wrote down every scene that came to my mind. One notecard = one scene. And afterward, I sat down on the ground and lined them up in the right order, then rearranged them again, added new scenes on fresh notecards, and so on. It was fun and in no time, I had written a 30-page outline. That was the right way for me. And it felt wonderful.

You have to find the right way for you. I’m not saying that it’s not worth your time to read posts about writing tips. Reading about other people’s writing process helped me figure out my own, even though it took a few detours to get there. But there’s no right or wrong when it comes to writing habits. The most important thing is that you get started. If you don’t write, you can’t find out what works for you.

About The Author

Susanne Winnacker studied law before she became a full-time writer. She lives with her husband, a dog that looks like a sheep and three bunnies that have destroyed every piece of furniture she's ever owned in Germany. She loves coffee (in every shape and form), traveling and animals. When she isn't writing, you can usually find her in the kitchen, experimenting with new vegan dishes.
She blogs for The League of Extraordinary Writers.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

About The Book

Tessa has finally made peace with her life as a Variant. She and long-time love Alec are officially a couple, and for the first time, she has everything she wants.

But the air is tense at FEA headquarters. An agent has disappeared, and rogue variant organization Abel’s Army is likely the culprit.

When Tessa is summoned for her second mission, she is unexpectedly launched into a massive conspiracy. Her best friend Holly is kidnapped and Tessa knows it was meant to be her. But who is after her? And more importantly, why?

When the FEA’s efforts to rescue Holly don’t yield any results, Tessa takes matters into her own hands. Desperate to save her friend and uncover the mystery behind Abel’s Army, Tessa launches her own investigation—but nothing could prepare her for what she finds. Everyone in her life is harboring secrets: Alec, her estranged mother, even the father she never knew.

The truth will take her out on the road and out of her comfort zone, with danger lurking everywhere. Summoning all of her courage and strength, Tessa must decide who can be trusted and what is worth fighting for—even if it means going against the life she thought she wanted. Her final decision will leave readers breathless.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


  1. I like plotting very much. I'm a butterfly chaser (focus problem) so I have to have lists. I write a list for everything I do that is important to me, except love, I wing that one. :)

    Tessa is my daughter's name, so the book must be a success. Sounds very interesting.

  2. Thanks for the post! I'm a total pantser but find that editing and sending the MS through my critique takes so much time. So I'm trying outline and pantsing for my next MS.

  3. I love this post because it is so true! Different things work for different people. I think I'm a halfway plotter :)

  4. I've tried both ways and decided pansting was way to much work. Plotting is like a painter who starts with pencil lines and fills in the colors. Pansting is like the sculptor starting with a huge block of marble and chipping away everything that is not the story. We get to the same stories and structure. We just have different ways of getting there. But if you're like me and hate cutting out words, then plotting is your best choice.

  5. It's good to find the writing way that works best for each person. Just as each publishing journey is different, nothing fomulaic, each writer's writing process is something unique to them, be it as a detailed plotter, wild-eyed pantser or a plotser :-)

  6. I couldn't agree with all of you more. There's no right way to write a book, and even each book seems to demand a slightly different process. I (and so many writers I know) always seem to be searching for a "better" or "easier" way, hoping that we'll "figure it all out." Hah. :D But i love reading posts like this to get new ideas of what works for others. I just need to make sure I keep focusing on producing words and stories instead of focusing on process!

  7. Pantser here. There is no right way for everyone. What a boring world it would be if there were. There is good food for thought here though. Thanks for the post.


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